Orkney MSP Liam McArthur used a debate in the Scottish Parliament this afternoon to reiterate calls for the Scottish Government to support local farmers and crofters in Orkney struggling to cope with the effects of almost 12 months of wet weather.
During the debate on Current Challenges and Opportunities Facing the Sector, Mr McArthur pressed the Agriculture Secretary, Richard Lochhead to set out the help that would be available.
In response, Mr Lochhead confirmed that his officials were involved in discussions with local industry representatives in Orkney looking at options for providing transport and other support. He indicated that he has asked for an urgent report back on the practical measures than might be taken.
Commenting after the exchange, Mr McArthur said:
“Already this year in Orkney we have seen well over 2,000 cattle sold early due to the exceptionally wet weather. With grass running out and the ground still wet across much of the county, the risk over the coming weeks is that breeding stock will be sold off if additional winter fodder cannot be bought in.
“For a farming sector that still relies heavily on its suckler herd, the loss of breeding stock would be serious. It would certainly prolong the impact the weather has had.
“Following my earlier engagement with the local NFUS and Orkney Islands Council, I was able to secure engagement with Scottish Government officials on possible support options. To date, however, no concrete proposals have been agreed.
“I therefore welcome the Agriculture Secretary’s confirmation to me this afternoon that he has asked for an urgent report back from his officials on practical measures that can be taken. Given the predicament facing many local farmers, including a number in the smaller islands, news of what support will be made available cannot come quickly enough”.